‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ event raises thousands towards affordable mental health services

Mental Health Crisis

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The Mental Health Association of South Mississippi (MHA) raised thousands of dollars at their Don’t Worry, Be Happy event Friday.

The fundraiser took on new significance after the announcement came from Gulf Coast Mental Health Centers that they don’t have the funding to stay open.

“There’s a lot of resources lacking in the southern area of Mississippi,” said Dan Abbate, a staff member with the Mental Health Association.

“I definitely feel like there’s a lack of affordable health care for people. I mean every time you turn around, there’s a fundraiser for someone who’s been sick or in an accident,” said event honoree Corey Christy.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy is celebrating 12 years of promoting positive mental health and wellness on the Coast.

It’s the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi’s biggest fundraiser. The tropical theme takes a light approach to a difficult topic that affects so many.

“I do have that on my father’s side. It is very near and dear. I won’t get into it, but it is very close to home," said Eric Sievers, president-elect of the Biloxi Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.

MHA says 1 in 5 people have some form of mental illness. The non-profit’s goal is to eliminate the negative ideas attached to mental health.

“You shouldn’t have to go bankrupt because you broke your leg or need some mental care," said Christy.

Some believe one person’s lack of mental health care can affect an entire region.

“People think that crime and all these things are derived from just random acts, but a lot of it can be traced back to mental health,” Sievers explained.

MHA is one of several groups on the Coast that offer free programs, from wellness education to homeless assistance. Sievers says more organizations should tackle the issue of mental health head-on.

“If we can attack that and address that, maybe we can address a lot of other things in our community and make it better for us,” Sievers said.

The Mental Health Association’s goal for this year’s fundraiser was $75,000.

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